Religious Youth Service

Becoming Peacebuilders through Religious Youth Service in Georgia

Zugdidi, Georgia - A Religious Youth Service project on the theme of “Creating Unity and Breaking Barriers” was held on July 21-30, 2012 in Zugdidi, a city in western Georgia's historical province of Mingrelia (Samegrelo). Zugdidi, the center of the region, is located 318 kilometers west of the capital city of Tbilisi and 30 km from the Black Sea coast.

Twenty-two participants from Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, England, Georgia, Ivory Coast, Netherlands, and Russia came together to live and work as an interfaith and international community; they represented Armenian, Georgian, and Russian Orthodox Christianity as well as Islam and the Unification faith. Lectures, readings, group discussions, work activities, visits, sightseeing, reflection, and spiritual practices were combined to provide insights into the culture, life, and faith of the people of Georgia.

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The main sponsors of the project were the Universal Peace Federation and “Save the Future Generation.”

At the orientation that served to kick-start the project, participants learned about unique elements of RYS and started to generate the spirit of being “One family under God.” During the entire project, volunteers sincerely practiced their common belief that “we should be the change that we wish to see in the world.”

The time together included visits to a Georgian Orthodox church, synagogue, and mosque to learn from religious leaders about the relevance of a religious life, religious traditions, and the impact that people of all faiths are making in peacebuilding.

The main service was the renovation of the Center for Continuing Education and the Museum of the famous Georgian academic Ignate Pipia. Volunteers also participated in ecological activities in the Zugdidi Botanical Garden and the famous tourist site Mukhuri. After ten days of living and working together, they built true bonds of friendship and demonstrated how diverse people can live together in peace for the well-being of everyone.

Volunteers visited the biggest hydroelectric power plant Engurhesi, the Dadiani Palace museum, the rapidly developing city of Batumi on the Black Sea, and tourist sites at Mukhuri and Chkvaleri.

Through the practical and insightful educational programs and sharing, participants gained insights into their own lives and the lives of others. The educational program was organized to provide experiential learning and to stimulate thought in the following realms: insight into world religions, education for global citizenship (conflict prevention and resolution, promoting a culture of peace), and becoming peacebuilders.

Throughout the program, many volunteers expanded their understanding of themselves and others and gained experience as "Youth Ambassadors for Peace." In their commitment letters on the final day, they expressed determination to organize peace-promoting activities with diverse people in the future.

At the end of the project, volunteers met representatives of the local administration and youth organizations and shared the vision of RYS, the precious memories and experiences from the project, and their hopes to serve on a larger scale in the future.

In Zugdidi the project planted seeds to transform local communities into communities of peace and uplift a culture of service. Volunteers gained experiences which will be helpful in daily life as well as in their professional activities.

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